Today was a day of the big dogs with all four films seen being either Palm d’Or winners or probable Oscar contenders Mother!, Call Me Buy Your Name, The Square and The Florida Project.
While I’m grateful to have got seats for them all, by day 4 of the festival your impractical determination withers and you resign to the fact that you just won’t be able to catch all the films on your ‘must-watch’ list by the week’s end. Especially considering the lineup for the final two days are always bleak and uninteresting.
Much of any and all discussion by this point in the week is dominated by ‘What did you watch’ conversations and today, much to my amusement, I overheard two people next me compare notes on ‘wow films’ - their shorthand for films that ‘wowed’ them. It was essentially 10 minutes of back and forth to the tune of ‘I haven’t seen many wow films this year. How many wow films have you seen? Last year had more wow films. I want to see more wow films. ‘
In other adventures, the morning screening of Mother! was unsurprisingly filled to bursting point with many little skirmishes erupting around saved seats and those entitled few trying to nudge their way into the queue and demand a seat. It’s always such a pleasure to see the ‘Do you know who I am?’ types knocked down a peg and told the rules apply to one and all.
Mother! : An Intriguing Yet Deeply Frustrating Experience
Mother is a deeply dividing experience and it’s pretty clear which side of the line I fall on. Darren Aronosky’s latest attempt to disturb starts of as a conventional creepy flick which made me almost cocky at how unaffected by it I was, considering the blaring hype/outrage against it. That is until the final leg of the film where it goes completely off the rails and will either have you enamored by what it’s trying to say or utterly exhausted to the point of not really caring either way.
Though Mother! does have many winning elements to appreciate, even for those of us not entirely alienated by it. Aronofsky’s film is a triumph of casting featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Ed Harris, a chillingly brilliant Michelle Pfiefer and Javier Bardem. Equally, Aronofsky's use of sound to keep you edge is simply atmospheric.
While it's all very metaphorical and symbolic with much commentary on religion, art and gender politics among other things, I personally couldn't connect with it and was left deeply frustrated because of how bewildering and straight up disturbing it was.
Call Me By Your Name: An Exploration Of Young Love
Romance is such a sensitive and delicate balance between that which is on the surface and the things that go unsaid as Luca Guadagnino’s much-raved about Call Me By Your Name shows us . The film tells of a young student (Armie Hammer) who spends the summer with his professor (a terrific Michael Stuhlbarg) and his family in Northern Italy where he forms a lurking romance with the professor’s son Elio (a stellar debut from Timothee Chalamot).
Call Me By Your Name is an intriguing character study of Elio, from whose perspective the film takes place. Through his eyes we live the trials, heartache and mind games of young love and all the madness that comes with it. The film offers a wonderful budding romance between the two boys and is a tender, heartfelt look at the delicacy of falling in love and exploring one’s sexuality. That said, Call Me By Your Name works best when it's romance is understated and subtly explored early on in the film where it dwells on the mere idea of what could be between the two.
Though the film is laborious in places and a tad overlong, it is a challenging and essential and the kind of film which we need more of. While I wouldn’t call the best of the year as many have been eager to pronounce, it’s certainly up there and a must watch.
The Square: A Thoroughly Enjoyable, Bizarrely Baffling Ride
Ruben Ostlund’s The Square, this year’s recipient of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, is a hilariously bizarre comedy centered around a museum curator (a brilliant Claes Bang) and his outlandish experiences in the days leading up to the unveiling of a new exhibit. The quirky satire strikes a wonderfully comical tone that somehow gets you laughing at even the most ordinary of moments. Ostlund’s absurdist tale somewhere reminded me of Damian Szifron’s glorious Wild Tales which struck a similarly heightened and exaggerated chord.
The film is frequently laugh out loud funny and attempts at shedding light on the indifference of people to the plights of others. That’s as much meaning as I could get out of it anyway. Remove the comedy and what you’re left with is a bizarrely perplexing experience. While I’m grateful for having watched The Square for the entertaining ride and the lengthy laughs it offered, I can’t for the life of me tell you what it all meant.